Ghost, Civil War stories fill other chapters of Lochinvar's past

BY SHEENA BARNETT
Daily Journal

PONTOTOC – The first time Lochinvar's well-being was saved, it was by a little bit of metal and a slip of paper.

In 1863, Col. James Gordon – son of Lochinvar's builder, Robert Gordon – and other Confederates captured 1,100 Union soldiers at the Battle of Thompson's Station.

Gordon's troop was told to transfer the Union soldiers to Tullahoma, Tenn. One of the Union prisoners, a Gen. Coburn, was so impressed with Gordon's kind treatment of the prisoners that he sent Gordon his sword and a note of thanks. Gordon sent the note and sword to his wife, Virginia, at Lochinvar.

Later, Col. Benjamin Grierson's notorious Union calvary began raiding and burning homes in North Mississippi. He sent a soldier to Lochinvar to raid and possibly even to burn the house. Virginia met him in her front lawn and showed him the sword and note.

Lochinvar was spared, and a Union soldier was ordered to stand watch over the house.

The sword will be on display during the tour.

Although that story is important to Lochinvar's past, it's a ghost story that's probably the house's most famous tale.

One of James Gordon's slaves, affectionately called Uncle Eb, was like a member of the family. When James left to fight in the war, he asked Uncle Eb to watch over Lochinvar and his family.

Uncle Eb would walk around the gates of the property with a lantern at sundown. One night, it's said, he went out during a rainstorm. A short while later, he fell ill and died.

According to many Pontotoc residents, you can still see Uncle Eb's light at Lochinvar's gates at sundown.

Though many Pontotocians swear they've seen the light, Dr. Forrest Tutor said he's never seen it.

“I've been asked a lot if I've seen the light, and I always tell them, Eb checked me out when I first moved in, and he decided I was OK, and he decided to retire,'” Tutor said.

Lochinvar opens for first tour after tornado

- The Pontotoc County landmark has risen from the shambles.

BY SHEENA BARNETT
Daily Journal

PONTOTOC – During its 170 years, antebellum home Lochinvar has had two near-death experiences.

The first time, it was saved by a Union colonel's sword; the second time, it was saved and restored by owner Dr. Forrest Tutor, his family and two carpenters.

Lochinvar, in south Pontotoc County, was almost destroyed by a deadly F4 tornado in February 2001. Two full-time carpenters have worked on the home for the past 5 1/2 years. On April 22, Lochinvar will open for a tour for the first time since the destruction.

“It's unbelievable how they put that house back together, and to see it now, you wouldn't hardly know the difference, especially on the inside,” said Martha Jo Coleman, recording secretary for the Pontotoc County Historical Society.

Long history

Lochinvar was built in 1836 by a Scotsman, Robert Gordon. His son, James, took over the home after his father's passing in 1867 but lost the house in the early 1900s. The Fontaine family bought Lochinvar but didn't move in for about 20 years. During those years, Lochinvar was used as everything from a dance hall to a bootlegging joint, Tutor said.

The Fontaine family moved in 1926. They sold the house to Tutor, who was practicing medicine and teaching neurosurgery at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, in the late 1960s. Tutor said he never knew much about Lochinvar before meeting the Fontaines – “I just knew it as the old haunted house south of Pontotoc.”

Throughout the years, Tutor took care of the house and gave tours to clubs and schoolchildren. The first open house was a surprise – 1,852 people toured the home in eight hours.

Gone in a minute

Tutor, his wife, Janis, and son, Travis, were inside Lochinvar when the 2001 tornado hit. Their son, Gordon, was staying with friends in Tupelo.

“It was horrible. There's no other word for it,” Tutor recalled. The tornado passed through in “no more than a minute, but things were pretty busy for that minute.”

The family survived the destruction without injury.

“The old house held together long enough for us to get out without a scratch,” he said. “That made me love the place more.”

Lochinvar's roof and front wall were thrown into the front yard. The floors, foundation and spiral staircase were stable.

Terry Walton and another carpenter have worked full-time for the past 5 1/2 years to restore the home. Only two major changes were made, both to the outside: The new roof is peaked instead of the original gable style, and the Tutors chose not to rebuild the destroyed widow's walk observatory.

Not all lost

Despite the destruction, Lochinvar's treasures either have been saved or used to make something new.

The destroyed cedar, black walnut and bodock trees around the property were salvaged by Tutor for an unusual purpose. He asked Walton, the principal carpenter in restoring the house, to build him a casket out of the wood.

“I hope that thing rots before I have to use it,” he said with a laugh. “I'm not anxious to use it.”

The wooden coffin is being kept in the house's basement, and Tutor said he may bring it out during the tour.

The April 22 tour's $10 entry fee will serve as a fundraiser for the Pontotoc Historical Society. But Tutor said anyone who helped his family or Lochinvar after the tornado will be admitted free.

Coleman said tour groups will go through the entire house, and people in Civil War-era clothing will be in each room to explain each room's highlights. Refreshments will be served in the back yard and anyone who wants to visit the Gordon family cemetery – just behind the house – can see it, too.

Tutor said this may be the last official open house of Lochinvar.

“I'll be 80 in July, so I'll have an excuse to quit,” he said with a smile.

Contact Daily Journal reporter Sheena Barnett at 678-1580 or sheena.barnett@djournal.com